Hillary Clinton, confident that winning the New York primary on Tuesday could all but lock up the Democratic nomination, campaigned in the days leading up to the contest more like a New York City mayoral candidate than someone running for president.
During a frenetic eight-stop day in New York City on Monday, Clinton stopped at a car wash in Queens to celebrate recently unionized workers, drank boba tea and chatted with workers steaming dumplings in Flatbush and got ice cream – booing a reporter who asked about calories – in the East Village.
The close contact, jam-packed campaigning was unique for Clinton who is considered a less-than-stellar retail politician. It also came on the heels of a whirlwind fundraising trip to California, so the frenzy of New York stops was well timed on the eve of the primary.
Hillary and Bill Clinton voted on Tuesday morning at Douglas G. Grafflin Elementary School in Chappaqua, the same polling place they have been visiting since 2000, when the couple moved from the White House to the small hamlet north of New York City.
As Chappaqua’s most famous residents, their voting was as much a campaign stop as it was a civic duty. The Clintons were greeted by around 50 supporters at the polling location, all positioned 100 feet away from the door in order to follow New York election law.
Inside the polling place, people in line to vote urged the 2016 candidate to jump the line and cast her ballot.
“No, you need to vote,” one prospective voter said to the possible Democratic nominee.
“I wonder who they voted for,” whispered another woman to her friend.
After Clinton marked her ballot – something she told the press was “private” – the former secretary of state walked over to submit it. Standing behind her in line: a teenage girl dressed up as the former first lady, blonde wig and all.
“This has been a joy during the last two weeks to be here all over the state and I hope everyone gets out to vote,” Clinton said outside the polling place, cautious to violate election laws by talking politics. “I had a great time going around the city in the last couple days. Just seeing a lot of old friends, meeting new people. And I just urge everybody, please come out and vote before 9 p.m. tonight.”
New York has been Clinton’s home for 16 years and many of her friends say it is the place were she is most at ease.
That showed as Clinton campaigned throughout the state for the last two weeks. At times, the typically cautious Clinton let her guard down and grew blunt with supporters.
“I am hoping to do really well tomorrow, I am hoping to wrap up the Democratic nomination,” Clinton told a group of gay and lesbian activists at a phone back in Manhattan on Monday.
When the audience went wild, Clinton realized what she said and quickly reoriented herself to say that she wasn’t looking past Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, something she says so often it has become a campaign trail cliche.
“But, but, but, I am not taking anything for granted,” Clinton said as the cheers subsided. “I have to quickly add that before anyone has the wrong impression.”
Clinton’s campaign, despite regularly touting their sizable delegate lead over Sanders, has been careful to seem like they are already focusing on the general election. Clinton herself has argued that she is able to “walk and chew gum at the same time,” meaning she can go after Republicans like Donald Trump and Ted Cruz while still worrying about Sanders.
But internally aides have grown confident that they will win the New York primary on Tuesday night, buoyed in large part by African-American and Latino voters in New York City and the surrounding suburbs.
Polls show Sanders has proven strong in upstate New York, an area Clinton visited three times while campaigning in the state. But Clinton aides feel that the bulk of delegates in and around New York City will prove insurmountable for Sanders’ operation.
The day before the primary, Sanders’ campaign accused Clinton’s operation of using their joint fundraising agreement with the Democratic National Committee as a way to skirt campaign finance laws. Committee aides knocked down Sanders’ accusation, flatly saying that the Democratic organization is not subsidizing the Clinton campaign’s fundraising.
The kerfuffle, while also refuted by the Clinton campaign, allowed Clinton’s campaign manager Robby Mook to tip his hand on his confidence about the last eight weeks of the Democratic primary.
“Sen. Sanders needs to decide, as it appears likelier and likelier that Secretary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee, if he wants to continue down this destructive path or get back to the debate on the issues,” Mook said.
Clinton didn’t match this rhetoric while she campaigned in New York over the weekend. Though she hit Sanders on guns, abortion and his ability to implement his campaign promises, she focused more on retail campaigning during her time in New York City.
Clinton visited Hi-Tek Wash & Lube in Queens to congratulate workers who has recently unionized on Monday.
A worker at the car wash told Clinton in Spanish that he recently won an election as part of his union. Clinton nodded excitedly after the comment was translated by another worker.
“Congratulations,” she said. “I hope I win an election tomorrow!”